The ‘worrying’ drop in testing for sexually transmitted infections caused by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted an urgent warning from Victoria state health authorities.
New data from the Melbourne Center for Sexual Health has revealed a 68 percent decrease in asymptomatic people seeking to get tested for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) this year.
There was also a 20 percent drop in STD notifications in Victoria between January and September, which health officials believe is likely due to people delaying health checks during the pandemic.
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Health Minister Martin Foley said that “STDs do not discriminate” and urged people who have sex to get tested once a year.
“Many STIs have no signs or symptoms,” he said.
“Anyone who is sexually active, regardless of age or background, can develop it.
“This is why as we move towards normal COVID, everyone needs to take precautions and get tested.”
It is estimated that one in six people will develop an STI in their lifetime but most will not know it.
Health authorities have warned that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise due to changing sexual behavior, persistent stigma, decreased and inconsistent condom use, immigration and social media.
Mr. Foley also urged people starting a family to undergo an STD screening to prevent possible transmission of syphilis, which if untreated in women, can cause miscarriages, severe birth defects and stillbirth.
“We urge women and their partners to get tested for STIs before and during pregnancy,” he said.
“This can prevent women from passing syphilis infection to their babies and prevent complications, including tragic stillbirths.”
There has been a 475 percent increase in infectious syphilis cases in Victoria since 2010. Unfortunately, there have been three deaths as well.
This week marks STD testing week, with testing available at a local GP, family planning clinics, Indigenous community-controlled health organizations, community health services and specialized sexual health clinics.
Most STIs can be treated with the correct treatment, but they can cause long-term damage, including infertility, if left untreated.